Coronado residents pay tribute to beloved street artist ‘Sandman’

CORONADO, Calif. -- Alberto Avila, better known as the "Sandman," has been a fixture in Coronado, often seen creating amazing sand art pieces -- until recently.

Community members said they have enjoyed finding Avila between the Coronado Shores and the Hotel del Coronado, waving and sweeping his magic.

Emerald C Gallery owner and curator Penny Rothschild reflected on the local artist work on the streets and beaches of Coronado.

"His art was like the untaken picture. It's gone and it's just in your mind and your heart," Rothschild said. "You can't buy it. You can't capture it, but you can always embrace it in your heart."

"People would say they had a bad day or they were tired and there he'd be, standing on the street corner at 3rd and Orange, waving and smiling with his sand art," Crehore said.

But the Sandman has not been churning out works of art lately. According to Facebook group "Coronado Happenings" administrator Charles Crehore, after years of battling liver cancer, Avila has been placed in hospice care in his home state of Texas.

Crehore and Rothschild posted Sandman's health condition on Facebook and collected cards. They were overwhelmed not just from local residents but people in other states.

"He'll never completely be gone, because of his friendly wave at the corner, captain's suit, hat and broom and his artwork that he gave to this community," Rothschild said.

The two have been in contact with Avila's family and though his situation is dire, these grateful strangers hope the Sandman knows of the impact he has had on so many.

"Big hugs and thanks for making our lives a little better," Crehore said.

"That's what he's brought to this community and I think that we're also celebrating the fact that he was part of us, of who we are," Rothschild said.